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5G and Beyond Mobile Wireless Technology

(United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland - Alvin Wei-Cheng Wong)


"5G is the foundation to what’s next." -- [Qualcomm]

5G is about Millimeter Wave, Spectrum, Small Cells and Latency. 5G brings three new aspects to the table: greater speed (to move more data), lower latency (to be more responsive), and the ability to connect a lot more devices at once (for sensors and smart devices). The performance benchmarks for 5G wireless service are high: user download speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) and uploads of 50 Mbps with a millisecond of maximum signal lag. That’s five times faster than the average household Internet connection in the United States and Europe and 15 times faster than the global average. And all of this needs to be done with three times the spectral efficiency of 4G, effectively tripling the volume of data that can be sent over the same amount of spectrum. 5G networks also must be capable of supporting a million devices in a single square kilometer and maintain connections for mobile devices traveling up to 500 kilometers per hour.

It has been nearly a decade in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. Carriers started rolling out fixed 5G to select cities in 2018, and mobile 5G started making appearances in cities around the U.S. in 2019, with much more comprehensive rollouts expected in 2020. 


The 5G Revolution Will Drive Future Innovations


Mobile carriers around the world are hard at work developing and making plans for next-generation 5G networks, a significant evolution of today's 4G LTE networks. 5G is being designed to meet the very large growth in data and connectivity of today’s modern society. This revolution will deliver by far the most intelligent mobile network the world has ever seen, as well as being the most "open," creating exciting new opportunities for Internet of Things (IoT) with billions of connected devices, and tomorrow’s innovations. 5G will initially operate in conjunction with existing 4G networks before evolving to fully standalone networks in subsequent releases and coverage expansions.

Mobile is the largest technology platform in human history. We're at the dawn of something new that will define the next decade and generation of connectivity. 5G uses radio waves or radio frequency (RF) energy to transmit and receive voice and data connecting our communities. 5G will keep us connected in tomorrow’s smart cities, smart homes and smart schools. Future smart factories and retailers, self-driving cars, untethered virtual and augmented realities, and other yet to be discovered experiences will grow up on tomorrow's 5G networks. Much like 4G introduced the world to the gig economy, mobile 5G will jumpstart the next wave of unforeseen innovation.

The new standard certainly sets ambitious goals. Compared to 4G, 5G aims for a 10X decrease in end-to-end latency, 100X traffic capacity and network efficiency, three times the spectrum efficiency, and 10 times the connection density. 5G will include both mobile and fixed-base wireless applications; for example, a 5G modem can replace fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) installations with wireless connections. Four drivers paving the way for 5G are following: Fiber-optic Infrastructure, Small Cell Deployment, High-frequency Spectrum Availability, Bringing 5G Indoors with Fixed Wireless. 5G will serve and change how we think about connectivity for home, enterprises and automotive. 

5G standards are not yet finalised and the most advanced services are still in the pre-commercial phase. 5G primarily runs in two kinds of airwaves: below and above 6GHz. 5G needs spectrum within three key frequency ranges to deliver widespread coverage and support all use cases. The three ranges are: Sub-1 GHz, 1-6 GHz and above 6 GHz. Above 6 GHz is needed to meet the ultra-high broadband speeds envisioned for 5G. Millimeter waves, also known as extremely high frequency (EHF), is a band of radio frequencies that is well suited for 5G networks. Compared to the frequencies below 5 GHz previously used by mobile devices, millimeter wave technology allows transmission on frequencies between 30 GHz and 300 GHz.

Carriers (AT&T, Verizon, ..) in the (U.S.) national wireless industry are developing their 5G networks and are working to acquire spectrum. 5G is currently being developed and trialed ready for commercial launch from 2020. Widespread availability of 5G services is expected by 2025. 


5G Wireless Networks

Mobile revolution has changed everything. Our future is a world of connected devices. That means enormous needs for infrastructure, speed and support. The next-generation wireless telecommunications technology known as 5G, which will operate at vastly higher speeds and be able to handle tens of times more devices than existing 4G networks. 5G standards are not yet finalised and the most advanced services are still in the pre-commercial phase. In fact, we probably won’t see any commercial 5G services before at least 2020. 

The actual 5G radio system, known as 5G-NR, won't be compatible with 4G. But all 5G devices, initially, will need 4G because they'll lean on it to make initial connections before trading up to 5G where it's available. That's technically known as a "non standalone," or NSA, network. Later, our 5G networks will become "standalone," or SA, not requiring 4G coverage to work. But that's a few years off. 4G will continue to improve with time, as well. 

5G New Radio (NR) is the global standard for a unified, more capable 5G wireless air interface. The air interface, or access mode, is the communication link between the two stations in mobile or wireless communication. The air interface involves both the physical and data link layers (layer 1 and 2) of the OSI model for a connection. 5G-NR will deliver significantly faster and more responsive mobile broadband experiences, and extend mobile technology to connect and redefine a multitude of new industries. 

Like other cellular networks, 5G networks use a system of cell sites that divide their territory into sectors and send encoded data through radio waves. Each cell site must be connected to a network backbone, whether through a wired or wireless backhaul connection. 5G networks use a type of encoding called OFDM, which is similar to the encoding that 4G LTE uses. The air interface will be designed for much lower latency and greater flexibility than LTE, though.

5G will achieve speeds of 20 gigabits per second, fast enough to download an entire Hollywood movie in a few seconds. It also will reduce latency - the measure of how long it takes a packet of data to be transmitted between two points - by a factor of 15. 5G networks will combine numerous wireless technologies, such as 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, and millimeter wave technology. 5G will also leverages cloud infrastructure, intelligent edge services and virtualized network core. 

Compared to previous technology generations, 5G is a network of networks or system or systems. Higher level of interconnectedness means factoring in all kinds of telecom infrastructure. The previous ones were focused on terrestrial systems - 3G and 4G - but now this concept of integration is really in place.  Satellite has been included into 5G standards, and now can become an integral part of 5G. One of the main differences between 4G and 5G is that 5G will need many more base stations to cover the same geographic area - three to five times as many base stations - be they connected to towers, buildings or lamp posts - will be needed to cover an area with the amount of capacity and speed demanded. 

"To bring 5G to life, we need to deploy hundreds of thousands of cell sites. Current manual processes require in-person site visits, but we’re using machine learning to create a “virtual world” that describes its environment - poles, buildings, building materials, foliage - to help operators determine where cell sites can be placed without requiring a site visit. This technology also helps us identify faults in our towers." - (AT&T Labs - Research)   


5G Technologies


5G wireless technology will provide the backbone for IoT (e.g., Health IoT) that greatly improves data transfer speeds and processing power over its predecessors. The Internet of Things (IoT) will be able to add real-time interactivity to applications ranging from remote inspection and maintenance, to robotic surgery. This combination of speed and computing power will enable new applications for mobile technologies, especially in health care. 

By 2020, the 5G network will support more than 20 billion connected devices, 212 billion connected sensors and enable access to 44 zettabytes of data gathered from a wide range of devices from smartphones to remote monitoring devices. Healthcare organizations are eager to embrace IoT devices because they save money by keeping patients out of the hospital. If IoT devices can diagnose people in advance then that saves huge costs. 

5G technologies will make it possible to interconnect with billions of devices and sensors globally, further fueling the growth of large scale dynamic decentralized/distributed data processing business models. These dynamic models will generate significant business opportunities as well as potential liabilities from failure to comply with centralized data protection requirements like those under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

5G technology is more secure than 4G, the current highest mobile Internet standard. One of the reasons it's more secure is that the tech encrypts data in a way so advanced that hackers would need a "quantum computer." In addition, the data protection rules in the European Union known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in May, 2018. The law requires companies that handle data to have a very high standard of data protection or face potentially huge fines. With massive amounts of data expected to be flowing along 5G networks, GDPR is likely to become even more important for the business world.

It is still unclear what technologies will play the crucial role in the development of 5G over the long term, but there are already some early contenders. These technologies include millimeter waves, small base stations, massive MIMO, full duplex, and beamforming. 


[More to come ...]

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